Sunday, February 17, 2008

FBI Combating Growing Violence Along The U.S. Border With Mexico

By Michael Webster
February 16, 2008
One of the FBI's important efforts to combat the growing violence along the U.S.border with Mexico is to deal with the region between the Texas cities of Del Rio and Brownsville which has experienced high levels of drug-related turmoil since 2003. The focal point of much of this activity is Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, a border city situated directly across the Rio Grande River from Laredo, Texas.

Chris Swecker Assistant Director, Criminal Investigative Division Federal Bureau of Investigation wrote drug traffickers have exacted an especially bloody toll in Nuevo Laredo and neighboring Mexican towns. Significant levels of violence and drug-related criminal activity also plague Laredo. As you know, this bloody drama revolves around the Gulf Cartel drug-trafficking organization, which dominates the region and commands smuggling operations along this stretch of the American Southwest.

Mr. Swecker in his report to U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Judiciary stated that one of the cartel's enforcement groups are known as Los Zetas, bears primary responsibility for the most of the raising violence. They have been fighting a turf war on behalf of the Gulf Cartel against rival drug trafficking organizations. Because the Bureau focuses on large-scale enterprise investigations that target the command and control structures of criminal groups, we are well suited to help dismantle these trafficking organizations.

One of the most significant ramifications of the unrest along the border has been a string of kidnappings involving U.S. citizens. Between May 2004 and May 2005, there have been 35 reported abductions of U.S. citizens in this region (much larger numbers of Mexican citizens have been abducted along the border. From January to mid-August 2005, 202 kidnappings occurred in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas, the Gulf Cartel's operational center, which includes the cities of Matamoros, Nuevo Laredo, and Reynosa.) Thirty-four of these abductions occurred in Nuevo Laredo and involved U.S. citizens who had crossed the border. Twenty-three victims were released by their captors, nine victims remain missing, and two are confirmed dead.

These numbers likely represent only a fraction of the actual occurrences, because many kidnappings of U.S. citizens go unreported. There are two reasons for the underreporting of abductions along the border. First, victims and their families fear reprisal from kidnappers. Second, since many victims are alleged to be involved in drug trafficking, they and their families are reluctant to cooperate with law enforcement.

In San Antonio there are 26 pending kidnapping cases. The FBI have offered all available resources to assist Mexican law enforcement and have followed every domestic lead to locate the U.S. kidnapping victims.

The Laredo Resident Agency received complaints from the families of U.S. citizens Janet Yvette Martinez and Brenda Yadira Cisneros after they disappeared on Sept. 17, 2004 in Nuevo Laredo. They remain missing. Investigation revealed that alleged members of Los Zetas kidnapped Martinez and Cisneros. Mexican authorities have cooperated and the FBI are working with them to review evidence in this case.

The FBI has interviewed all cooperative kidnapping victims subsequent to their release. In cases where the victim remains missing, they have tried to obtain DNA samples to identify any human remains, if recovered. In the one case where the kidnapping occurred within the United States (Laredo), the FBI helped rescue the victim before he was transported to Mexico. This investigation is pending and the assistant United States attorneys in Laredo and Houston are pursuing charges.

The FBI has Investigations Targeting Cartel Activity. The San Antonio Division alone has over 50 Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigations. These target Mexican drug trafficking organizations and related activities, including money laundering and gang violence. One of the investigations, Operation Cazadores, led to the indictment of Gulf Cartel leader Osiel Cardenas-Guillen. The investigation continues to pursue fugitive Gulf Cartel leaders indicted along with Cardenas-Guillen.

United States Attorney Johnny Sutton and FBI Special Agent in Charge Ralph Diaz announced the indictment against 23 San Antonio residents, all of whom are in leadership positions in the Texas Mexican Mafia, for violating the federal Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organization (RICO) statute.

"Intimidation, violence and murder are standard operating procedure for these gangsters. This indictment is the first step in putting them out of business," stated United States Attorney Johnny Sutton. "Since 2004, our office has put over 130 members of the Mexican Mafia in federal prison and we are committed to disrupting and dismantling this criminal organization."

Other pending investigations in Laredo, Houston, El Paso, and Dallas focus on the leadership of organizations affiliated with Cardenas-Guillen and others. 23 TEXAS MEXICAN MAFIA HIERARCHY CHARGED IN FEDERAL R.I.C.O. CASE

Mexican drug cartels responsible for recent border violence have also cemented ties to street and prison gangs on the U.S. side. U.S. gangs retail drugs purchased from Mexican traffickers and often work as cartel surrogates or enforcers on U.S. soil. Intelligence suggests Los Zetas ("They're known as Los Zetas") have hired members of various gangs at different times including the Mexican Mafia, Texas Syndicate, MS-13, and Hermanos Pistoleros Latinos to further their criminal endeavors.

The FBI claims that they are well-equipped to deal with these groups. The FBI, in conjunction with their law enforcement partners, has established a National Gang Intelligence Center at FBI Headquarters. In addition, they have established task forces throughout the country to disrupt gang activity. The FBI's San Antonio Division currently operates two Safe Street/Gang task forces addressing border violence in San Antonio and the total Rio Grand Valley.

These FBI-led task forces include FBI special agents, other federal agents, and local law enforcement officers: the San Antonio Safe Streets/Gang Task Force is comprised of nine FBI special agents and 13 task force officers; the Rio Grande Valley Safe Streets/Gang Task Force is comprised of eight FBI special agents and five task force officers.




The FBI claims they continues to collect and share intelligence with other federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. Through Safe Streets task forces, they are collecting intelligence and exploring the connections between Mexican cartels and gangs along the border. The FBI is currently participating in Operation Blackjack, an interagency endeavor in conjunction with Mexican authorities. Through this program they have exchanged vital targeting intelligence on Los Zetas and the Gulf Cartel with their law enforcement colleagues, including DEA, ATF, and appropriate elements of DHS.

More broadly, at the core of their intelligence-gathering effort lies the FBI's McAllen Intelligence Center. The MIC, as it is commonly known, is comprised of representatives from various local, state, and federal agencies in Texas. This is the central repository for border violence-related intelligence. The MIC collects and analyzes criminal intelligence from state, local, and federal investigations along the Texas/Mexico border.

The center routinely shares intelligence with Mexican officials and over 300 law enforcement agencies in South Texas. This includes material regarding corrupt Mexican officials, gang activity along the border, and drug trafficking. The McAllen Intelligence Center also maintains a comprehensive database of Zetas, their associates, and members of both the Gulf Cartel and its rivals.

The FBI has had several operational successes based on intelligence they gathered and passed on to Mexican officials. Some of the information the FBI provided to Mexican officials helped Mexican federal and military authorities locate two Zeta safe houses in Nuevo Laredo in June 2005, where they rescued 44 kidnapping victims.

FBI officials recently met with their Mexican counterparts and discussed the location of several suspected Zeta-owned ranches. Based on information furnished by the FBI, Mexican authorities conducted surveillance of the locations and provided the FBI with the resulting intelligence.

Eight other FBI special agents in the Resolution 6 program cover five major cities in Mexico working in DEA offices, which affords complete coordination with DEA resources and investigations. These agents develop intelligence regarding the activities of Mexican criminal enterprises to support U.S. investigations.

All of this work is coordinated with representatives from key DEA offices and Mexican officials. Recently Mexican authorities used FBI Resolution 6 intelligence to conduct several drug seizures, including seven tons of marijuana attributed to Joaquin Guzman-Loera, archrival of the Gulf Cartel. In September 2005, FBI Headquarters deployed analytical resources to Monterrey, Mexico, to provide case support.

The FBI says they are committed to continue to aggressively pursue the major organizations and violent criminals responsible for lawlessness along the border. The FBI, along with there colleagues at the Department of Homeland Security and Department of State, is working with the Mexican Attorney General's Office and the U.S. Consulate in Monterrey to identify Los Zetas members and their associates in order to revoke their immigration documents. This measure will make it more difficult for them to enter and operate in the United States. FBI is also cooperating with other U.S. law enforcement agencies in investigations targeting Los Zetas, the Gulf Cartel, and their enemies.

On October 13, 2005, the U.S. attorney general announced the creation of an ATF-led Violent Crime Impact Team (VCIT) in Laredo. In combination with the VCITs already established in Los Angeles, Tucson, Albuquerque, El Paso and Houston, the Laredo VCIT will address cross-border violence. The VCIT model combines local police resources with ATF investigative and technical expertise and the resources of ICE, CBP, and other federal law enforcement partners to reduce the violence that plagues our most crime-ridden communities.

The Mexican government has described the violence as revenge for President Felipe Calderón's year-old crackdown on organized crime that sent thousands of soldiers and federal police into violence-plagued Mexican cities bordering the United States. The FBI is taking pro-active measures to assess and confront this heightened threat to public safety on both sides of the U.S./Mexico border, including participation in multiple bilateral multi-agency meetings and working groups to hone strategies to address the problem. Our intelligence gathering activities provide windows into these organizations and their operations while our investigative efforts strive to disrupt and dismantle these criminal organizations and reduce the violence in the region.

Paramilitary groups such as the Zetas, Los Negros, Los Numeros, and others who work for Mexican drug cartels as enforcers are a serious threat to public safety on both sides of the entire U.S./Mexico border. They are well financed and well equipped. Their willingness to shoot and kill law enforcement officers on both sides of the border makes these paramilitary groups among the most dangerous criminal enterprises in North America.

Sources:

Laguna Journal

FBI's McAllen Intelligence Center, Violent Crime Impact Team (VCIT, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), United States Customs Service (USCS), Federal Bureau Of Investigation FBI, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Customs Enforcement and Bureau of Customs Border Protection, U.S. Border Patrol Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General, Pima County Sheriff's Dept., US Army Defense Intelligence Agency, El Paso Police Dept. El Paso Sheriff Dept.

Rommel Moreo Manjarrez, Baja California's attorney general, Mexican Army Gen. Germn Redondo Azuara,

Edgar Millan a top official with Mexico's federal Public Security Secretariat, and Juarez Mexico Police Dept.

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